Traffickers push up to 180 migrants into sea off Yemen

WATCH: African refugees 'forced off' boats near Yemen coast

At least five migrants drowned and 50 went missing on Thursday when smugglers forced 180 Africans off a boat bound for Yemen, a day after a similar incident left 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration said.

Some 180 Ethiopian and Somali are forced into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers, with 55 of them are presumed to have drowned, the United Nations migration agency says.

The route, across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, takes them through Yemen, one of the world's most risky war zones, where airstrikes and mortar shelling have become routine, and a cholera outbreak has affected more than 400,000 people.

In the first drownings on Wednesday, a smuggler forced more than 120 migrants into the sea as they approached Yemen's coast, the IOM said.

He also encouraged the creation of legal pathways for migration.

"The smugglers are panicking", de Boeck said, but added that reinforced border controls along the coast could be having a counter-productive effect.

"They also told us that the smuggler already has returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route". "This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean".

The IOM said it feared the incidents might mark the start of a new trend in people-smuggling that could lead to more deaths.

Many leave from points in Djibouti, with some departing from Somalia. And they have no choice, ' de Boeck told the AP. The majority of migrants are young males between the ages of 12 to 25 from Ethiopia, it says.

'They have forgotten us a little bit, ' de Boeck said. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely risky for migrants.

The smugglers, often heavily armed, are afraid to get too close to land because they believe authorities are waiting for them, so they force the migrants into the sea.

Headon said it is unlikely the smugglers would ever be caught.

In March, a helicopter opened fire on the vessel carrying over 140 Somali passengers in the Red Sea off the Yemen coast, killing 42 civilians and wounding another 34.

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